The recent Enhancing Postgraduate Environment colloquium held at the Royal Embassy of the Netherlands in Pretoria was a celebration of this highly successful project, that has been led by Rhodes University and Vrije Universitieit, while also being an opportunity to interrogate a range of issues pertaining to postgraduate education in South Africa. The colloquium brought together representatives from all 12 institutions in this Erasmus Plus funded project, from the Netherlands, Turkey, Scotland, Germany and South Africa, along with academics, postgraduate students, and DVCs, Deans and Directors of Postgraduate sectors of universities from across the South African higher education system, the DHET, and the NRF. Representatives from Kenyan and Malawian universities also attended.
The powerful keynote address by Dr Sizwe Mabizela, Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University, challenged those present to consider the purpose of having a strong postgraduate sector. Professor Johann Mouton, from CREST at Stellenbosch University, then presented a statistical analysis of postgraduate growth that shows it might be possible to attain the doctoral graduate targets set for 2030 in the National Development Plan (2012). However, he cautioned us to look at the impact such growth could have on quality of supervision and research. Other keynotes by Mahlubi Mabizela, Chief Director: University Policy and Development, DHET and Dr Romilla Maharaj, Executive Director Human and institutional Capacity Development, National Research Foundation, provided an overview of the national level structures in place to support the postgraduate endeavour.
The colloquium used a process of World Cafés to ensure that the broad representation from the sector all had an opportunity to contribute to deliberations around issues that have emerged during the project. World Cafés were held on:
- Postgraduate education as a public good
- The relationship between postgraduate education
- Postgraduate education and the decolonisation debate
- The student experience of postgraduate education
- The role of information literacy and technology
- Models of postgraduate education in South Africa
A major outcome of the Enhancing Postgraduate Environments projects is a website, postgradeducation.com, which now has 72 videos, workbooks, interactive PowerPoints and posters designed to support postgraduate scholars and their supervisors on the stimulating and challenging journey of postgraduate education. These materials are all licensed under Creative Commons, which allows anyone around the world to download, use and adapt them as they see fit. With over 8000 individual visitors from twenty-five different countries, the website is already starting to see some serious traffic. These figures exclude the many students who are being introduced to these materials by supervisors and staff in postgraduate centres as they are integrated into workshops and courses.